Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Jane Adams: Champion of Democracy

Jane Adams: Champion of Democracy

Dennis Brindell Fradin, Judith Bloom Fradin
For ages 12 to and up
Clarion, 2006   ISBN: 978-0618504367

Laura Jane Adams grew up in the village of Cedarville, Illinois. She was a clever child and did well in school and when she grew older she wanted to go to one of the new women’s colleges that had been built. Unfortunately Jane’s father refused to allow her to venture so far from home so she went to a smaller, more local, seminary. Jane still got a good education and ended up with a college degree after all but when she left college she did not know what she was going to do with herself.

A bleak period followed full of illness and depression during which Jane was very unhappy and unsure of her future. Then Jane did some volunteer work in Baltimore and this experience had a profound effect on her. Next she visited an establishment in London which provided aid for the poor and it gave her some concrete ideas about what she would do herself.

Jane went to Chicago and found a house in a poor, mostly immigrant, section of the city. She managed to persuade the owner of the house to donate the house to her cause and after some work was done on it, the house was turned into a “settlement house,” a place where the poor could attend classes, get support, and get a hot meal. She named her establishment Hull House, and over time it also grew to offer the poor people in the neighborhood a kindergarten, a laundry, bathing facilities, and much more. Indeed Jane bought many nearby buildings to accommodate all the programs that Hull House ran.

Hull House was a huge success and establishments like it were created in other parts of the country. Jane became famous and she used her fame to raise funds for Hull House and to make the public aware of the causes that were dear to her: women’s suffrage, the need for better labor laws, and the peace movement.

The latter, Jane’s efforts to try to advance world peace, made her very unpopular indeed, but Jane refused to be intimidated by those who did not agree with her. She attended conferences, gave speeches, and tried to get governments to change their way of doing things.

This superbly written book tells the story of Jane Adams in an interesting and engaging way, not just narrating the events that took place in Jane Adams’ life but also capturing the personality of the lady who had a profound effect on the people and events of her times. Readers will be left wondering how it is that they did not know more about this extraordinary woman who did so much, who gave so much of herself, and who had so much hope for the future.